Using stock photos and Photoshop for storyboarding

As I'm beginning to tip-toe into the world of editorial portraiture, where the story that I'm trying to tell with images involves more complicated lighting setups, posed models, etc., I'm finding it useful to have storyboards for shoots.  These storyboards help me to convey to my collaborators the vision that's in my head far better than words.  And getting everyone on the same page helps to make shoots more efficient, which is a must for me given that I have a very finite amount of time for photography, and often my time comes in very short bursts.  Being able to plan something carefully so that a project will fit into an available window of time is extremely important if I want to get anything accomplished at all.

Unfortunately, my illustration and drawing skills have atrophied mightily since I was a teenager dreaming of becoming a comic book artist with dozens of hours a week spent sketching.  My silly animal cartoons for my 6 and 8 year olds are pretty on point, but, not really all that helpful to try to convey a vision to others about work I'd like for us to create together.  After pondering this problem for a while and considering the tools in my arsenal I could bring to bear, it hit me that there is a whole world of stock photography out there that I could mash up into passable mockups for the images in my head using Photoshop.

I'm scheduling a shoot for February right now where I have 3-5 images that I want to make that convey the dissociative effects that modern technology, particularly ever-present mobile devices, have on inter-personal relationships.  I need to book models, who are easier to book if you can explain to them or their agent what you're trying to do.  I need to design the lighting setups and test them out before the shoot, and am probably going to bounce (no pun intended) a bunch of ideas off of some of my fellow photographers to try to more quickly get to a working setup.  Etc. 

So I made the following mock up from 4 stock images from iStockPhoto.  (I like to pay for my stock images given that stock photographers need to make a living, and they give the rest of us a fantastic resource to work with.)

The image that I had in my head was of a young women holding a mobile phone in her hand, staring at it, with a somewhat disconsolate young man standing behind her being ignored, with a ray of light from high stage left shining down on the iPhone illuminating some dust floating around in the air.  I made this mock up by grabbing an image of a young woman standing, looking down, an image of a young man standing looking down with a hand on his forehead, an image of a hand holding an iPhone, and an image of some dust floating in the air.  That took about 10 minutes.  It took another fifteen minutes to put these images into a document, scale them, mask out the bits that weren't needed, and then get a gradient background and a "beam of light" in place.

Even though this isn't a bad image (the beam of light is a bit unnatural looking), it still isn't the final image that I'm looking for.  The models aren't quite right.  The posing isn't quite right.  The beam of light doesn't look 100% the way that I want it to look.  The lighting on the models is wrong.  Etc.  But it conveys approximately the right mood, will allow me to explain to my collaborators what I'm going for in the finished image, and will help me to get my lighting setups figured out before the shoot.  All that for 25 minutes of work, and a few bucks worth of stock photos.

Kevin Scott